Record Review: Sharon Van Etten

Sharon Van Etten


Brooklyn, NY

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“Swirling, heart-wrenching, hauntingly sweet vocals”

Recently, Sharon Van Etten was quoted as saying (to Performer) that her new album, Tramp, is just as personal as any she’d written before, but also, that it “comes from a stronger sense of self.” For listeners of Van Etten’s previous albums, 2009’s Because I Was in Love and the follow up, Epic, this should make perfect sense. Van Etten has evolved as a songwriter, singer and producer on Tramp, capturing her swirling, sometimes heart-wrenching, and hauntingly sweet vocals, spread across a sonically diverse collage of songs.

Like most great albums, Tramp gets better with each track. Personally, I was hooked by “Serpents” and fully fawning by “Leonard,” two tracks that show off Van Etten’s ability, along with producers Bryce and Aaron Dessner (The National), to build complex and brightly punctuated soundscapes off of the her ideas.

On “Leonard,” Van Etten sings about a lover’s return over a bouncing melody line, beautifully crafted and pronounced with emotive longing, peppered with echoes of relief and fond memories. Van Etten has credited the sound of the record to her collaborators, which also included Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak, Zach Condon of Beirut and Matt Barrick of the Walkmen.

“In Line” continues the rollercoaster, leveling off into a sleepy, reverb laden country-tinged swing tune.

As she sings, “In line, I wait for another,” it’s the tiny musical highlights that bring the song and record into focus for the heartfelt piece of art it is. “We Are Fine,” featuring Condon, about Van Etten’s friend talking her through a panic attack, is another finely-crafted, fun folk tune, which brings the listener back into the fold – a well-received palate cleanser for the coming songs, which is the big draw with this album. There’s always something new yet equally stimulating waiting around the corner.

If you’re a fan of artists like Feist, Bon Iver, and The National, treat yo’ self and welcome Sharon Van Etten. (Jagjaguwar)

Produced by Aaron Dessner

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